Dear Visual AIDS friends and family,

As many of you know, after nearly five years working a dream job as Programs Manager / Director, I am leaving Visual AIDS to start graduate school at Yale in the Fall. First and foremost, I want to express deep gratitude to the entire Visual AIDS community for an incredibly meaningful experience working together. To be able to spend my days with Visual AIDS Artist Members to provide platforms for their vision and steward creative legacies of artists lost to AIDS has been truly transformative. Working alongside the committed Visual AIDS staff, board, collaborators, and volunteers consistently affirmed the urgency and impact of our mission at the intersection of art, AIDS and activism—I cannot thank everyone enough for all we’ve been able to make happen together.

Countless memories come to mind, and a few stand out to highlight:

~I will never forget the thrill of projecting RADIANT PRESENCE onto the facades of the Guggenheim Museum, the Met, and the former site of St Vincent’s hospital for Day With(out) Art 2015—shining the powerful words and images of Artist Member artwork made us all reflect on the continued realities of the decades-long AIDS crisis that remains ongoing, going on.

~The creativity and community building while making handmade paper valentines for LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN always warmed my heart. I’m grateful to have been able to develop this annual celebration with Artist Member Jessica Whitbread and a growing group of collaborators over the past five years, mailing thousands of valentines to women living with HIV around the world for Valentines Day.

~It’s been a thoughtful learning experience to work with so many amazing curators and artists on our annual Day With(out) Art video commissions—the hope and perspectives from their videos adding to the wide-ranging history of AIDS-related video art and activism. I’m so proud that Visual AIDS’ signature program Day With(out) Art has grown to once again reach over 100 venues each year, impressing upon all of us the need for this work in as many contexts as possible.

~I’m consistently reminded of the many memories we made across beloved New York City—whether in pouring rain or scorching heat—while leading dedicated participants on the Last Address Tribute Walk. This project developed from an individual walk I took on my own into an annual program for which we have made over 30 site-specific tributes to artists lost to AIDS and locations of cultural and AIDS activist history, showing me how the spark of an idea could grow beyond my wildest dreams.

So much blood, sweat and queers went into these communal projects and so many more, and I’m holding these inspiring experiences close into my next steps…

I am excited to be starting a PhD program in the History of Art and African American Studies at Yale in the Fall. I plan to continue to make necessary interventions against the widespread whitewashing of HIV/AIDS cultural narratives within the field of Art History and its intersections with critical race studies. I am also excited to follow whatever directions graduate school may take me. I am aspiring to write, teach and curate about AIDS-related art histories in graduate school and beyond, continuing the heartfelt work I’ve done at Visual AIDS. Of course, I plan to remain an avid supporter of the work of Visual AIDS in the years to come. (And Yale—in New Haven, CT—is only two hours away from NYC by Metro North, so I’ll probably see you soon!)

My last day as Programs Director at Visual AIDS will be June 4. Kyle Croft, who has been an incredibly thoughtful and appreciated colleague and friend for years now at Visual AIDS, will take up the torch of coordinating Visual AIDS programs; I congratulate him on his new role. I also want to especially thank Executive Director Esther McGowan, who I have had the enjoyable experience of working with for all of my years at Visual AIDS. I am excited to see what comes from Esther and Kyle’s steadfast vision, alongside Tracy Fenix with supportive Artist Member coordination and Nancy Chong with important Development work, as they all lead Visual AIDS powerfully into the years ahead.

Deepest thanks to everyone who has made my time at Visual AIDS as special as it has been. I’m looking forward to staying connected as we continue to do this essential work together.

Sincerely, xo

Alex Fialho